What You Need to Know to Create an Amazing Salad
Salad gets a bad rap. It shouldn’t! We’re here to defend the art of salad-making and its merits as a delicious, satisfying, and wonderful way to enjoy seasonal eating on your own terms.
Let’s face it—outside of lunch, in the court of public opinion salads are in dire need of an image makeover. Long relegated to the role of obligatory appetizer or unmemorable side dish, it’s often thought to be one of those unappealing, wallflower types at the dinner table. After years of being unappreciated and even maligned, it’s high time salad shines brightly amidst a sea of conventionally desired foods.
The disappointing salads we know too well are the ones prepared without enthusiasm and joy—colored by past trauma involving post-meal hunger pangs, soggy leaves, and soul-crushing desk lunches. Whether they are made with droopy ingredients or overwhelming dressings, these sad greens give the glorious ones a bad rap. We’re here to defend the art of salad-making and its merits as a delicious, satisfying, and wonderful way to enjoy seasonal eating on your own terms. Here is our breakdown of an envy-inducing salad to help get you excited about making your next one.
All About That Base
Base vegetables form the foundation of a salad. As the main component, you’ll use a larger amount of these ingredients, making it crucial to choose wisely. Depending on your taste preferences, you’ll want to select a mix of textures and flavors, while considering how well your desired dressing will pair with it. We like to combine crisp lettuces with a smaller amount of more delicate greens like frisée. If you plan to use a thick, creamy dressing, you might try a heartier base of vegetables. Endive or radicchio are slightly bitter, so they tend to pair well with subtly sweet dressings to help cut the powerful flavor. If you like arugula but find it too peppery, add some baby spinach for balance. Some popular base veggies include but are not limited to the following ones.
- Lettuce: romaine, Bibb, green leaf, red leaf, or iceberg
- Delicate: baby spinach, baby arugula, dandelion greens, or frisée
- Kale: dinosaur, baby, or curly
- Hearty: cauliflower, broccoli, or other root vegetables
- Bitter: endive or radicchio
- Cabbage: red, green, napa, or savoy
Top It Off
Toppings present the gleeful opportunity to further customize your salad, making it truly your own. Veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, cheese, and herbs! The sky’s the limit, which is what makes this part of the prep particularly fun. While it’s easy to go overboard, it’s also important to consider other flavors and textures in your salad. Here are a few points to consider when choosing your toppings.
- Seasonality: Whenever possible, try to use fresh seasonal produce to build your salad. In addition to being less expensive when they are in season, these veggies taste infinitely better!
- Variety: A thoughtful blend of textures, tastes, and flavors differentiates a killer salad from a mediocre one. Consider your own palate and mix it up with different layers. From sweet and tangy to crisp and tender, have fun experimenting with what you like.
- Pantry: Take a peek inside your cabinets to discover ingredients that lend themselves perfectly to amazing salads. Think briny olives, tasty artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers.
When it comes to dressing your salad, whether you choose lemony vinaigrette or creamy ranch, avoid bottled varieties. It’s easy to make your own and it’ll taste so much more delicious than anything you get at the store.
- Vinaigrette: Made with a vinegar or something acidic, a sweetener, a binder like Dijon mustard, oil, salt, and pepper, a dreamy vinaigrette is a cinch to prep. You can mix and match different types of these components to make a variety of vinaigrettes.
- Creamy Dressing: Creamy dressings are often made with mayo, buttermilk, or sour cream. We like using Greek yogurt, a little olive oil, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to achieve a similar richness.